Sunday, November 09, 2008

Law and Gospel: Application and Conclusion

Application in an analysis of various movements

The Epistle to the Galatians — the harshest letter ever written by Paul in the Scriptures. Yet all of this was necessary because of the importance of the doctrine being subverted by the Judaizer heretics. The doctrine of salvation by faith alone apart from works and law-keeping is the doctrine by which the Church stands or falls, and also the doctrine by which the salvation of each individual believer stands or falls too. Paul pronounced an anathema against the Judaizers for distorting the doctrine of salvation as their false "gospel" distorts the true Gospel message. This message of Paul is as relevant to us today as it is to the Galatian Christians of that time.

In our times, a multitude of false "gospels", all deserving the anathema of God, have spread across the land. Such false "gospels" divert people from the true Gospel which saves, and we would look at some examples here: Strict Sabbatarianism, Roman Catholicism and Purpose-Drivenism aka Warrenism.

Strict Sabbatarianism

The issue of a mandatory keeping of the Sabbath on a particular day in a particular manner, whether it be the seventh-day variety as seen in Seventh-Day Adventism, or of the more historically reformed heritage of the first-day Sabbath, constitutes strict Sabbatarianism. Besides being impractical and absurd, such strict rules invariably breeds a form of Legalism. This can be seen explicitly in the case of Seventh-Day Adventism with its emphasis on Sabbath keeping being necessary for continuation in the state of being saved, as Sabbath-keeping is God's mark of salvation[1]. As opposed to this form of hard legalism, the reformed variety is expressed most strongly in the example of the Puritans, who sometimes have an imbalanced focus on keeping the law till they fall into soft legalism — keeping the rules and regulations otherwise one is deemed to be disobedient towards God and thus not in a right standing with Him.

As we have seen throughout the exposition of Galatians, Paul's contrasted the law with grace, works of the law with faith, and never the two shall meet (being antithetical to each other), at least not in this plane. Our salvation and standing before God is all of grace, and none of works. The Scriptures do not differentiate between various aspects of the law, nor do they differentiate between works done for salvation and works done for the continuation of salvation. In fat, as we have already seen, the error of the Judaizers IS precisely salvation by faith PLUS continuance in works. Hard legalism as seen in Seventh-Day Adventism thus fall into the exact same error as the Judaizers, and are therefore subjected to the same anathema as them. Ditto for soft legalism, except that the reformed variety typically inconsistently embraces the doctrine of justification by faith alone, and therefore the problem arise only in those who emphasized more on their doctrine of legalism at the expense of the doctrine of free grace.

Roman Catholicism

If strict Sabbatarianism is analogous to the Galatian heresy, Roman Catholicism with its express denial of the doctrine of Justification by Faith alone, coupled with the attendant doctrines of the Treasury of Merit, Indulgences, Purgatory, Penance etc make the Judaizers look like children with regards to false doctrine. Roman Catholicism not only (officially) proclaims salvation by faith plus works, they oftentimes unofficially practice salvation by works especially with regards to their laity. Romanism far surpass the Judaizers in their heresy, and the biblical judgment against her is therefore a strict anathema.

Purpose-Drivenism aka Warrenism

Notwithstanding Rick Warren's profession to be a Protestant (and a Southern Baptist at that!), Warren through his behavior does not show the genuineness of his profession. The compromise with Rome logically leads to a denial of the Gospel, and Rick Warren through partnering with Romanism practically denies the Gospel. This is not to mention the entire focus on works that his PEACE plan is based upon; a "second reformation" that is based on "deeds, not creeds". The Bible is most certainly interested in our true beliefs as opposed to our professed beliefs, and Warren's works do show that his profession is just "lip-service" and cannot be a belief from the heart (Is. 29:13), as his life is not consistent with his profession.

The focus on works in Warrenism runs counter to the message in Galatians, of which the message is on the grace of God and our faith in Him. The entire purpose driven paradigm is thus built on the sand of Man's works apart from faith in Christ, and thus face the anathema of Scripture. For God pays no regard whatsoever to what we pay lip service to, but to what we actually believe in.


In conclusion therefore, let us learn to run the race of faith. Let us learn not to trust in our works to save us or even to put in a better standing with God, but to trust in Christ who is our perfect righteousness. May we learn from this epistle to the Galatians and know the functions of Law and Gospel, so that we can be more firmly rooted in living the Christian life to be one of faith and lived by the Spirit, and not to be one burdened by the Law. Amen.


[1] See the teaching of SDA apologist Walter Veith's teaching here on the traditional SDA doctrine on the Great Controversy, which I have refuted here and here. Also see Ellen G. White's teaching on the subject in The Great Controversy (Harvestine Books, Altamount, TN, USA, 1998), p. 69, 641

The Sabbath will be the great test of loyalty; for it is the point of truth especially controverted. When the final test shall be brought to bear upon men, then the line of distinction will be drawn between those who serve God and those who serve Him not. While the observance of the false sabbath in compliance with the law of the State, contrary to the fourth commandment, will be an avowal of allegiance to a power that is in opposition to God, the keeping of the true Sabbath, in obedience to God’s law, is an evidence of loyalty to the Creator (p. 641)

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